“There are 2.6 million children in the U.S. who are living with extended family, inside or outside the child welfare system because their parents cannot care for them. These families are often called “kinship families” or “grandfamilies.” Strong evidence shows children in grandfamilies thrive, especially when they get the support they need. Yet, grandfamilies across the country are not equitably supported.” – Read more from a new report by Generations United.
TexProtects Takeaway: The annual State of Grandfamilies report by Generations United offers a wealth of information on the benefits of kinship care, the needs of kinship families, and available services and policies for these families. While there are known benefits to keeping children within their own families, this report finds that “for every 1 child being raised by kin in foster care, 18 children are being raised by kin outside of foster care.” One way to combat this inequity is to create parity among grandfamilies and promote financial equity by ensuring these families have access to income support, tangible goods/services, and physical and mental health resources. TexProtects has advocated to better support relative caregivers at every stage of the child welfare process and will continue to push for policy changes during the interim leading up to the Texas 88th Legislative Session.
“True primary [child abuse] prevention, which proactively supports the formation and stability of healthy and thriving families, remains an area of much-needed investment.” – New report from the APHSA on Unlocking the Prevention Services in the FFPSA.
TexProtects Takeaway: This new report by the American Public Human Services Association, Unlocking the “Prevention Services” in the Family First Prevention Services Act, offers a series of recommendations on making the FFPSA roll-out effective, efficient, and transformational for the child welfare system. Currently, almost four years since the law was implemented, only 17 states have approved Prevention Plans and have started drawing down federal funding for prevention services (Texas is not included). This report offers recommendations such as amending the prevention services clearinghouse requirements to ensure those with lived experience are informing the services and extending the temporary enhanced federal matching of prevention services through 2023 instead of ending with the public health emergency. In the 87th Texas legislative session, policymakers took steps to implement the FFPSA. HB 3041, by Representative Frank and Senator Kolkhorst, was passed and requires DFPS to create FFPSA pilot prevention programs in two areas of the state focused on children at imminent risk of being removed from their home and placed into conservatorship of the department. Families who participate in these pilot programs will be monitored, and parameters will be in place to ensure that CPS is not involved any longer than necessary. While the location of the pilots and the evidence-based prevention programs have not yet been announced, we are excited about this important step in the implementation of FFPSA in Texas.
TexProtects Takeaway: DFPS has taken steps to reduce disproportionalities and disparities in the Texas Child Welfare system, beginning with a 2005 mandate by the Texas Legislature to examine and address racial disproportionality in the state child welfare system and, if found, develop a plan to reduce disparities. The analysis indicated disproportionality existed with African American and Native American children in Texas disproportionately overrepresented in the child welfare system.
Recognizing the importance of cross-system collaboration to address this issue, the state created the HHS Center for the Elimination of Disproportionality and Disparities, later named the Office of Minority Health, Statistics, and Engagement. Within DFPS specifically, they hired a disproportionality manager for CPS, regional specialists, and a state-level disproportionality specialist. In recent years most of these positions were repurposed to various state agencies, and in 2018, the Office of Minority Health, Statistics, and Engagement were defunded and closed in August 2018. Currently, according to the newly released DFPS Disproportionality Report for FY 2020, “all efforts to eliminate disproportionality and disparities in the Texas child welfare system are managed by the CPS state disproportionality manager,” the lone position that remains from the initial efforts, but it has been vacant since May 31, 2021.
While we are disappointed in the defunding of the Office of Minority Health, Statistics, and Engagement, we are grateful for the continued efforts on the part of DFPS to reduce disparities and are excited for the latest announcement of the new disproportionality manager.
The recently released DFPS Disproportionality Report for FY 2020 highlights these continued efforts by DFPS, but unfortunately, the data suggests we have not made large strides in addressing disparities and disproportionalities in the Texas child welfare system. A few important takeaways from the report:
African American children are overrepresented in at least one stage (if not multiple) of CPS involvement in each of the 11 DFPS State Regions.
The racial and ethnic demographics of children removed has been consistent across FY16 to FY20, showing a higher proportion of African American children and a lower proportion of Asian children are entering, in, and exiting foster/kinship care.
African American children are reported, investigated, and removed at a higher rate than children of Anglo, Asian, or Hispanic origin.
Hispanic children are overrepresented in poverty yet are not overrepresented in child welfare at the state level – Hispanic families make up the largest percentage of children in poverty, yet they are reported and investigated by CPS at a slightly lower rate than their proportion in the Texas child population.
We agree with and support DFPS’ plans for future analysis and recommendations contained in this report. Specifically, we are encouraged by the recommendation for DFPS to “collect better data on income due to the disproportionate number of families of color living in poverty and track these trends.” While we know that living in poverty can be a risk factor for neglect, poverty itself does not equal child neglect. We must work together across systems to ensure families have access to community-level prevention services and support when they need them the most.
A new report released by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that childcare issues in our state result in a loss of $9.39 billion on Texas’s economy annually!
TexProtects Takeaway: A new report released by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that childcare issues in Texas result in an estimated annual loss of $9.39 billion annually to the Texas economy! For more data points on Texas and to read about the implications of barriers to accessing child care, check out the full report. As more families move to Texas for job opportunities and Texans increasingly go back to work, access to high-quality child care will be a necessity.
A recent Chapin Hall study of CA foster youth found that rates of college enrollment and degree attainment among youth who have aged out are increasing. Go here to find out how Tx is supporting foster youth as they prepare to enter adulthood.
TexProtects Takeaway: A recent Chapin Hall study of California foster youth found that a majority of youth were enrolled in college and almost 10% had attained a 2- or 4-year college degree by age 23. These rates of enrollment and degree attainment are generally higher than previous studies of transition-aged youth, and “maybe a result, at least in part, of the investments made in the past two decades in California aimed at increasing college access and persistence for foster youth (for example, extended foster care, ETVs, campus-based support programs, community college tuition fee waivers).” Texas has also made recent strides in supporting older foster youth and ensuring they are prepared to enter into adulthood.
An estimated 1,200 youth in Texas age out of foster care each year. Much older youth who age out are not adequately prepared for adulthood and often face challenges with obtaining a driver’s license, maintaining employment, securing consistent housing, following through on education and maintaining healthcare coverage. As a result, they are more likely to experience homelessness and have untreated mental or physical health issues. The passing of HB 700, passed during the Texas 87th Regular Session, will help to remove barriers and provide supports that can best ensure these young adults have every opportunity to succeed. HB 700, championed by Reps Jarvis Johnson, James Frank, Ray Lopez and Senator Judith Zaffirini, ensures foster youth who complete Preparation for Adult Living classes are eligible to receive college credit, helping them to lock in their tuition and fee waiver for state colleges. Hopefully, this policy change will support more transition-aged youth in continuing their education.
The passage of Build Back Better would mean increased access to preventive services for our youngest Texans, saving lives and dollars in downstream costs for the state. The Hunt Institute has created a helpful guide to understand the transformational policies included in BBB. Check it out!
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A recent study from the Community Partnership Family Resource Center (FRC) found that a community in Colorado experienced a 63% reduction in the rate of child abuse after a Family Resource Center was established in the community.
TexProtects Takeaway: In August 2021, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) announced the awarding of five grants, totaling over $1 million each, to community organizations across the state of Texas. These grants to communities will assist in the creation of Family Resource Centers (FRCs) in Cameron, Harris, El Paso, Hidalgo, and Travis counties. FRCs are designed to be one-stop centers of community support, connecting families to a range of support services such as housing, employment, concrete services, parenting support groups, child development classes and more. The creation of FRCs in Texas is part of a multi-year plan by DFPS to prevent child abuse and neglect in Texas.
FRCs are already established in many states with positive outcomes for children and families. A recent study published by the Community Partnership Family Resource Center in Teller, Colorado, found that that a community in Colorado experienced a 63% reduction in the rate of child abuse over a 3-year period after a Family Resource Center was established in the community. The study concluded, “FRCs play a key role in preventing child abuse and neglect.” The findings also indicated savings to the county child welfare system of $2.92 for every $1 invested in the FRC. TexProtects is excited to see Texas invest in FRCs across the state that will connect families to necessary resources and help in the prevention of child abuse and neglect.
While the deadline to enroll in the advance #ChildTaxCredit has passed, families are still able to claim their full Child Tax Credit when filing taxes in 2022. Check out this fact sheet to see how Texas families and children have benefited from this lifeline!
TexProtects Takeaway: A recent fact sheet published by the Social Policy Institute at the Washington University of St. Louis reveals the temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) is projected to cut American child poverty by more than half. This tax credit expansion provides families with $3,600 for every child in the household under the age of six, and $3,000 for every child between the ages of six and 17. This study found that “the vast majority of U.S. families with children are eligible for the CTC” and “almost two-thirds of eligible TX families received the CTC.”
How did Texas families use this extra support? The study found Texans utilized this extra income to purchase food for their families, pay their bills, pay for school expenses, and to purchase clothing or other essential items for their children. The study also found that families who were eligible for the tax credit “experienced lower rates of severe food insecurity” after the payments were sent out. Now all eyes are on the Build Back Better Act, a federal reconciliation package, which if signed into law would include a permanent extension of the child tax credit, lifting even more Texas children out of poverty!
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The work of the 87th Legislature is already well underway, and TexProtects’ staff is hard at work alongside agency and legislative leaders in ensuring that Texas keeps child safety and family wellbeing at the top of the priority list this session.
Late last month, TexProtects provided recommendations in response to the Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) Legislative Budget Request (LAR). The agency’s LAR will serve as the foundation for the appropriations bill and state budget for 2022 – 2023. With the ongoing challenges of COVID-19 and the prospect of a session much more limited in scope, now more than ever, public participation and feedback on the budgetary process is critical to ensuring that communities and families can benefit from strategic investments and proven programs that ensure every child has a bright tomorrow.
You can read our comments and recommendations here, and stay tuned for more opportunities to let lawmakers know that now is the time for us all to step up and be champions for children.
TexProtects’ Stakeholder InputDepartment of Family and Protective Services Legislative Appropriations Request 2022-2023
Submitted November 24, 2020
TexProtects appreciates the opportunity to offer comment on the Department of Family and Protective Services’ Legislative Appropriations Request for 2022-2023. As the only statewide organization singularly focused on child protection and preventing abuse and neglect, we applaud the Department’s investments in prevention and family preservation approaches that are proven to keep children safe and keep families together.
Investments by the 85th and 86th Legislatures and innovative approaches by DFPS leadership have resulted in substantial shifts in approach that have the potential to change the landscape of child welfare in Texas in a way that is beneficial for children and families. The rollout of Community Based Care and the potential funding available through the Family First Prevention Services Act offer Texas the opportunity to invest in proven strategies, leverage community strengths, and keep kids safe.
However, despite these significant improvements, the DFPS budget still reflects a prioritization of reaction to abuse and neglect rather than prevention and family preservation. Only 5% of the 2021 budget is spent on prevention with 87% spent on Child Protective Services. The investments in CPS have increased much faster than investments in prevention without any accompanying decreases in reports, investigations, or confirmed victims.
Texas has not created a system that is effectively rolling out evidence-based practices to prevent removals and address risk before a crisis.
Despite increasing child fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect (specifically in children under age 5), only 3.8% of families in highest need have access to voluntary evidence-based programs through the Prevention and Early Intervention Division that could help prevent such tragedy.
The vast majority of investigations are for neglect rather than abuse, demonstrating that most families are need of support rather than protection.
78% of removals from the home (and entry intro foster care) are occurring straight from investigations without the family receiving family preservation services.
42% of families who have received services in Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS), which are intended to prevent removals, are re-reported for abuse or neglect within five years of completing services.
44% of children are subsequently alleged as a victim in a new investigation within five years of exiting CPS custody.
Disparities by race persist with African-American families 1.9 times as likely to be investigated and African-American children 1.6 times as likely to be removed than Anglo children.
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Child Abuse and Neglect
Now more than ever, it is critical that the state respond correctly and provide families with proven strategies to meet their needs and to stay together safely, otherwise there is a risk of putting more stress on the system. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only negatively impacted Texas’ budget, it has caused families to face an unprecedented amount of stress, financial difficulties, and social isolation. Research during the Great Recession found significant correlations between unemployment and physical and emotional abuse. If those correlations hold in the current crisis, Texas could see a 15% increase in physical abuse cases and 12% increase in emotional abuse cases for every one-point increase in the unemployment rate.
For many families experiencing unemployment, untreated substance use and mental health challenges can increase the risks to child safety and family well-being. According to the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, a 5% increase in the unemployment rate could result in 300 additional lives lost to suicide, 425 additional lives lost to drug overdoses, and an additional 50,000 cases of Substance Use Disorder each year. With more than 70% of CPS cases involving mental health and substance abuse challenges prior to COVID-19, we expect to see an even more substantial impact.
Now more than ever, protecting children requires better support for families who are facing unprecedented challenges that can impact child safety and well-being.
DFPS’ Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR)
DFPS is entering into the next biennium with a $4.5 billion baseline request, which reflects growth forecasts but is impacted by the previous 5% reductions. According to DFPS, this required making some additional funding asks just to get back to a maintenance level of operations. In a typical legislative budget cycle, one would expect numerous exceptional items above DFPS’ baseline request. However, with the current economic climate amid a pandemic and a costly ongoing federal lawsuit, DFPS’ approach to the budget is narrow in scope and only aimed at initiatives they consider to be most necessary. DFPS’ LAR includes requests for an additional $192 million to carry these out.
It is promising to see two opportunities for additional prevention investments to keeping families safely together and preventing removals reflected in the Exceptional Item Requests.
$10 million is requested for investment in Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) services, specifically Project HOPES (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support), the Family and Youth Success Program (formerly known as STAR), and the Military Families Program. Citing the costs of each program in comparison to the cost of foster care services, DFPS acknowledged these services as a “cost-effective alternative to foster care.”
DFPS also included a placeholder to discuss how to leverage the funding opportunities in the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).
These initiatives and associated dollars are focused on keeping children safe and supporting families to ensure that reports, investigations, and child abuse/neglect rates decrease. The only path toward a better Texas tomorrow and decreasing costs spent on CPS is to shift the paradigm by investing in cost-effective and proven programs BEFORE crisis. Prevention saves dollars and make sense. It’s the right approach for children and the smart approach for taxpayers.
1 Exceptional Item Request #4 – Fully fund Prevention and Early Intervention toward Strategic Growth
While the CPS system plays a vital role for children who have endured abuse and/or neglect, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)also plays a critical role in the prevention of abuse and neglect and the strengthening of families through effective prevention programs. The Prevention and Early Intervention Division at DFPS has established innovative and effective community-based strategies for delivering proven programs to families who choose to enroll.
The immense research done on the health implications of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)[i]—including abuse, neglect, family violence, or growing up with a caregiver who is incarcerated, mentally ill, or engaging in substance use—makes clear that what happens in early childhood literally lasts a lifetime. The prevention of ACEs holds incredible potential for ensuring healthy development and impacting societal challenges and taxpayer costs across multiple domains.
The cost of inaction is clear. ACEs like child abuse and neglect are associated with negative outcomes for individuals across the lifespan including poorer health, lower educational attainment, and higher likelihood of experiencing unemployment. Individuals and governments incur significant costs as a result. Bellis et al. (2019) estimate that annual healthcare costs attributable to ACEs across North America are approximately $748 billion with 82% of costs resulting from individuals who had two or more ACEs.[ii] With one in 10 American children living in Texas, we can expect to incur a significant percent of those costs if we aren’t better able to prevent child abuse, neglect, and other severe childhood trauma.
To create the most effective and efficient systemic change, interventions should occur in early childhood and should rely on evidence-based approaches that decrease risk and increase protective factors within family and community systems.
We fully support the DFPS request in exceptional item #4 to increase investments in prevention initiatives including Project HOPES (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support), the Family and Youth Success Program (formerly known as STAR), and the Military Families Program.
Specifically, we applaud the increase in Project HOPES and the Military Families Program which have implemented evidence-based home visiting strategies for families with young children. These programs are proven to have significant impacts on maternal and child health, school readiness, and child safety during the most critical years for development and have been a lifeline for families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HB1549 (85R) directed the agency to create a strategic plan to scale prevention programming. The current PEI strategic plan indicates that to adequately protect families, a 20% increase in prevention funds is needed every biennium.
While this exceptional item does reflect a 6% increase for PEI budget and an 11% increase in the number of families who could be served by PEI, it still offers less than 4% of families with young children and 3 or more risk factors access to proven evidence-based home visiting.
In order to maximize impact, ensure access for families in need, and realize savings across our state systems in this budget cycle and the many yet to come, our investment must demonstrate a true commitment to strategic expansion.
$18 million additional dollars (on top of the request) would allow Project HOPES to expand so that they could reach at least 5% of families most likely to benefit, would be more in line with the growth goals in the PEI strategic plan, and would create a meaningful path toward statewide scale of proven prevention programs.
2 Exceptional Item Request #5 – Prioritize Prevention in Appropriating Funds for Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)
FFPSA provides Texas with a tremendous opportunity to transform the system from one that primarily responds after a crisis has occurred to one that invests in prevention to ensure families can remain together when safe and appropriate, have the supports they need, and avoid the trauma of a removal. In fact, FFPSA is the greatest investment and shift in the child welfare system from the Feds in the past five decades and if Texas doesn’t act, we will miss out on the opportunity to shrink our foster care system. FFPSA creates a funding mechanism for prevention services so that states can now be reimbursed at a rate of 50% for trauma-informed and evidence-based substance use, mental health, and in-home parenting services that have been approved by the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse. Federal eligibility criteria broadly include children at imminent risk of entering foster care and their caregivers, as well as pregnant or parenting foster youth. The goal is to keep children out of the Child Protective Services (CPS) system by utilizing providers in the community who specialize in prevention.
DFPS released their strategic plan on September 1, 2020 which includes an overview of existing prevention services and agency activities that align with FFPSA, as well as implementation considerations and options for the prevention services and congregate care components of the bill using federal dollars already in hand from the Family First Transition Funds Act (FFTA). The plan does not require additional appropriations from the 87th Legislature and does not propose investment of any state dollars to receive the federal match that FFPSA affords. It does little to set up a framework for how to take advantage of this potentially transformational federal funding on an ongoing basis; therefore, there will still need to be planning in the 88th Legislature if this is not addressed now. Much can be done now to ensure Texas leverages this federal legislation and funding opportunities. The Department is awaiting direction from the 87th legislature on how to spend the recommended $33.9 million on prevention services for families whose children are at imminent risk of entering foster care.
Support the Department’s plan to leverage $33.9 million in FFTA funds toward prevention efforts.
The prevention provisions of FFPSA are ultimately optional, so the Department’s plan to use $33.9 of the $50.3 million in FFTA funds on prevention efforts shows great promise. Prior to FFPSA, states focused dollars on measures that are expensive and reactive rather than proactive, protective, and cost-efficient. The further into the system a case flows, the more expensive it is. In 2019, there were 18,615 children who entered foster care. Preventing 3% of those removals would save the state $20 million. By investing earlier, Texas can prevent removals, save money, and keep children safe.
Prioritize effectiveness and be strategic about which prevention options to pursue.
DFPS laid out a wide range of options in their strategic plan. In partnership with lawmakers during this session as well as future sessions, it is essential to identify which strategies are most effective and can be replicated well in diverse communities around the state.
The most promising options leverage the expertise that has been developed within DFPS’ PEI division. These services are not staffed or carried out by employees of DFPS. Instead, PEI contracts with community providers who are highly-skilled in prevention work to provide voluntary services. Similar approaches can be utilized to fund community block grants and targeted approaches to reach families at higher risk while still empowering community leadership, strengths, and choice.
Options 2D, 2E, and 2F in the FFPSA plan are most poised to deliver proven programs to the FFPSA defined population in the coming biennium and as written could offer pilot programming to over 3,000 families at risk of removal including pregnant and parenting foster youth.
These options leverage established and successful infrastructure and programs with experience, serving FBSS families, who fit the eligibility definition. Additionally, several of the programs already implemented by PEI are approved by the Clearinghouse, including Healthy Families America, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers and could be used to draw down the federal match.
Increased investment in those three options from available FFTA funds could empower pilots in more communities as well as exapnsion into rural communiites through tele-health and in-person modalities. A more focused investment in pilot approaches most likely to succeeed would result in closer to 5,000 families served before the next legislatative session. This would provide the next legislature more information to decide how and where state general revenue investments could be most impactful to communities and the budget by maximizing the federal match.
Strengthen family preservation services.
Family-Based Safety Services (FBSS) is the stage of service within DFPS that is tasked with providing services to families who have experienced child abuse and neglect but that has not risen to the level of requiring a removal. This stage of service is meant to keep families together and strengthen their ability to be healthy without further CPS intervention.
DFPS has proposed that families participating in FBSS are one of the primary targets for FFPSA prevention services. Unfortunately, DFPS does not publicly report which supports and services are provided to these families. Anecdotally, DFPS has shared that these services are primarily not evidence-based. FFPSA provides an opportunity to do something different by providing these families with evidence-based, trauma-informed services.The state spent $94 million on FBSS to serve 18,000 families in 2019. That money should be spent more wisely. Taking advantage of the opportunities in FFPSA could allow Texas to ensure that families are receiving evidence-based services proven to keep children safe. By doing so, we could finally decrease the recurrance rate among FBSS families. Diverting 5% of families from FBSS could save approximately $9.4 million.
Better align across systems to increase access to substance use and behavioral health programs.
The match available through FFPSA is for mental health, substance use, and in-home parenting supports; however, the strategic plan does not provide a meaningful pathway toward increasing access to behavioral health services which are both severely lacking in our state and clearly identified as root causes of abuse and neglect.
Texas should ensure that the budget of each state agency who provides these services to families has been considered to see if there are any missed opportunities to draw down federal funds. Cross-agency work should be mandated to ensure that future funds can be invested in ways that capitalize on the federal match.
Ensure there is state investment now in order to draw down the federal match in this biennium.
We know families are in need of services now, so the state should consider investing its own dollars, not just the federal dollars it already has, to ensure more families can be served and to provide a meaningful and sustainable path forward for these critical prevention services.
Carrying out the opportunities provided by FFPSA requires a drastic perspective shift. The intent of FFPSA is to transform the current system, not keep it the same. FFPSA aims to invest early in effective measures that will keep families together and out of the CPS system. Every dollar Texas invests should be spent with this in mind. With their current plan, DFPS has taken strides in the right direction for the children and families of Texas. However, it is essential that the Texas Legislature supports these efforts, makes a plan beyond this legislative session, and ensures the focus remains on child abuse and neglect prevention and family preservation.
TexProtects looks forward to serving as a resource and partner as you continue your work. Thank you for your commitment to these issues and to the families and children of Texas.
[i]Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998).
While we can likely all agree that 2020 has been a year that has somehow simultaneously flown by and dragged on, one thing is certain: the 87th Legislative Session is right around the corner and will be here before we know it. This session brings with it lots of unknowns about how it will be conducted, and state departments have been preparing for a tight budget to carry out their operations. The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) recently released their Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) for Fiscal Years 2022-2023 which has given us some insight into their priorities for the children and families they serve.
Last session, DFPS started out with a $4.2 billion baseline request and was able to secure more funding in several key areas. With this additional funding, the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division expanded Project HOPES (Healthy Outcomes though Prevention and Early Support) and Texas Nurse-Family Partnership (TNFP) into four new counties each. DFPS also provided a $6,000 salary increase to Statewide Intake (SWI) staff, which has resulted in decreased turnover and hold times. Increased funding was allocated to increase staffing for the Child Protective Investigations (CPI) and Child Protective Services (CPS) workforce which, according to DFPS, has decreased caseload sizes. Additionally, Community-Based Care received funding to expand to a total of five catchment areas: three in Stage I and two in Stage II (case management). While DFPS achieved its goal to advance two areas into Stage II (Regions 3B and 2), only two areas currently operate in Stage I (Regions 8A and 1). They are re-procuring the contract in Region 8B to hopefully begin Stage I services in the summer of 2021. Provider rates were also increased to help serve the children in their care.
In light of a global pandemic, state agencies have since had to make adjustments due to the anticipated $4.6 billion shortfall to the entire state budget. State agencies were asked to reduce their expenditures by 5%. While parts of DFPS were exempt from this reduction, DFPS’ total estimated expenditures for Fiscal Years 2020-2021 are estimated to be $4.4 billion.
DFPS is entering into the next biennium with a $4.5 billion baseline request, which reflects growth forecasts but is impacted by the previous 5% reductions. According to DFPS, this required making some additional funding asks just to get back to a maintenance level of operations. In a typical legislative budget cycle, one would expect numerous exceptional items above DFPS’ baseline request. However, with the current economic climate in the midst of a pandemic and a costly ongoing federal lawsuit, DFPS’ approach to the budget is narrow in scope and only aimed at initiatives they consider to be most necessary. DFPS’ LAR includes requests for an additional $192 million to carry these out.
While approximately $182 million in exceptional items focus on the functions once a family has experienced crisis, it was most promising to see requests for additional investments in keeping families safely together and preventing removals. DFPS specifically included an exceptional item request for an additional $10 million investment in PEI services, specifically Project HOPES, the Family and Youth Success Program (formerly known as STAR), and the Military Families Program. Citing the costs of each program in comparison to the cost of foster care services, DFPS acknowledged these services as a “cost-effective alternative to foster care.” DFPS also included a placeholder to discuss how to leverage the funding opportunities in the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). Their FFPSA strategic plan provides numerous options to carry out the prevention provisions of this federal legislation, and they want the Legislature to weigh in.
DFPS has prioritized maintaining its current CPS operations to ensure they are keeping children safe and providing families with the supports they need. This $99 million request includes additional funding to restore the travel costs that decreased during the beginning of the pandemic, ensure they can continue providing services to clients at the current levels, and additional conservatorship (CVS) caseworkers to meet the target caseload sizes.
To comply with the decade-long federal lawsuit, DFPS included an additional request for $39 million. This amount includes additional staff to meet the heightened monitoring requirements to ensure facilities are adhering to minimum standards and additional staff for Residential Child Care Investigations (RCCI) to address the Court’s concerns about the timeliness and quality of their work. These additional funds also will cover the fees for the court monitors to oversee compliance and report back to the Court.
To continue the momentum of expanding Community-Based Care, DFPS has requested an additional $44 million in funding for the costs associated with expanding Stage I into four new areas and Stage II into two new areas.
We look forward to working with DFPS and the Legislature to protect and support investments in child abuse and neglect prevention, to promote family preservation, and to ensure the children and families in their care receive the services they need to be safe and successful. Stay connected with us for updates on budget discussions throughout the session and to find out how you can get involved.
TexProtects collaborated with the Child Protection Roundtable to provide budget input to the state
TexProtects has been working with our partners as part of the statewide Child Protection Roundtable to understand the effects of this pandemic on children and families, the possible fiscal implications, and the history of legislative budget cuts and their impacts in the past during times of economic challenges.
The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) is the budget request made from the Department to the Legislature which details the funds that will be needed to continue their services for the next biennium. This LAR includes the projected budgets for Prevention and Early Intervention, Statewide Intake, Child Protective Investigations, Child Protective Services, and Adult Protective Services. One of TexProtects’ main focuses on providing input for the LAR was looking at prevention dollars.
Historically, when child abuse and neglect prevention funding has been cut, more money has ultimately been spent longer-term and there have been more confirmed child abuse victims. This is not wise-investment and not right for the children TexProtects aims to protect. We know there are strategies that work, and we worked thoughtfully and carefully with our partners to lay those out in our recommendations for the DFPS LAR.
Read the full Child Protection Roundtable DFPS LAR input below.
May 29, 2020
On behalf of The Child Protection Roundtable (CPRT), a consortium of statewide advocates, research organizations, health and education interests, direct service providers and other key stakeholders from over 50 organizations with child protection expertise, we greatly appreciate the opportunity to provide recommendations for the FY2022-2023 biennium Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR) of the Texas Department of Family Protective Services (DFPS).
The Child Protection Roundtable serves as a convener for member organizations engaged in child welfare which share a child-centered, common vision and leverage data, resources and strategy to achieve more progress collectively than could be achieved individually. The Child Protection Roundtable works in partnership with DFPS, the state legislature, and other stakeholders to improve the safety, health, and well-being of children.
More specifically, the goal of the Child Protection Roundtable is to be the leading voice and driving force in child protection public policy and governmental action in Texas that:
Helps prevent child abuse and neglect before it occurs;
Ensures protection and well-being of children and youth who come into state care; and
Heals the ongoing trauma and other adverse consequences experienced by children and youth as the result of maltreatment.
In light of the public health crisis that has left so many in our state economically unstable, investment in the safety of our children at risk and in vulnerable situations must remain a priority. Please consider the following LAR recommendations for prevention and early intervention, supports for transition-age youth and young adults, children with developmental disabilities, Community-Based Care (CBC), CPS workforce, implementation of a trauma-informed system, and the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). In several instances, we have recommended increased investment; however, we would not want any of these increases to come at the expense of reduced investment in any of the other areas as they are all important to the overall system and the infants, toddlers, and children of all ages, and families, being served.
Prevention and Early Intervention
To break the cycle of child abuse and neglect and reduce the long-term strain on our child welfare system, we need to break the cycle of cutting child abuse prevention funds under DFPS’ Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) division in times of fiscal challenge. Given the depth and breadth of the economic recession underway, coupled with stay-at-home orders and recommendations, we know from history that child abuse is likely occurring at higher rates even though reports may temporarily be down.
When the FY2004-2005 prevention budget was cut in 2003 by 35%, we saw a 20% increase in confirmed child abuse victims between 2004 and 2005. Once again, after the Great Recession in 2008-2009, we saw a 44% increase in confirmed victims in 2011. Maintaining our investment in prevention and early intervention is our best hope for avoiding yet another spike in abuse, associated costs, and strain on the CPS system.
Given the social isolation and increasing stress and risks for families due to COVID-19, the work of strengthening families and ensuring child safety must begin before a crisis occurs. Economic instability, domestic violence, substance use, and mental health challenges are highly correlated with increased risk for child abuse and neglect. While mitigating the health effects of the virus is primary, these longer-term risks will continue to affect families and child safety for years to come. As such, investment in the front end of the system is needed now more than ever.
The investments made in these prevention networks are critical lifelines of support during this crisis and should continue to be rolled out through existing contracts with community providers. These prevention services will keep children safe now and save the state money later, with an average return of investment between $1.26-$8.08. Further investment in family preservation, or secondary prevention, also saves money.
As noted by the DFPS 2018 Prevention Task Force Report, “Diverting 5% of families from Family Based Safety Services (1786) would save the state more than $9.4 million. Preventing 3% of removals (593) would save upwards of $20.3 million.”
The Child Protection Roundtable encourages the state to continue to increase investment in primary prevention programs through PEI to prevent child abuse and neglect, strengthen and support families, increase connections to community resources, and decrease truancy and delinquency for older youth. The current PEI strategic plan indicates that to adequately protect families, a 20% increase in prevention funds is needed every biennium. Currently, DFPS allocates 5% of their budget to the PEI division.
To preserve families and decrease the number of children entering the child welfare system, the state should preserve and increase investments in the following:
Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES)
Helping Through Intervention and Prevention (HIP)
Texas Nurse-Family Partnership (TNFP) and Texas Home Visiting (THV)
Family and Youth Support (FAYS)
Military Families and Veterans Pilot Prevention Program (MFVPP)
These programs have established infrastructure and community contracts/networks that can be leveraged to quickly and efficiently deliver proven programs to families who choose to enroll. To cut these programs would result not only in increased risks for children and long-term costs to the state, but local nonprofits and networks would be threatened, leaving even more Texans out of work and the state without a system by which to empower community family support and prevention programs.
Transition-Age Youth and Young Adults
The Child Protection Roundtable encourages DFPS to increase support for transition-aged youth and young adults. As DFPS has noted in the LAR for the current biennium, “[w]ithout such consistent services, youth are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system, are at higher risk of teen pregnancy and parenting, have lower reading and math skills and high school graduation rates, are more likely to experience homelessness, and have higher rates of unemployment and likelihood of long-term dependence on public assistance.” Most services for older youth are federally funded through the Chafee program, which requires a 20 percent state match. The Chafee program allows DFPS to offer services that help youth and young adults pursue their education and employment, secure housing, and meet many other needs they have as they transition into adulthood. Unfortunately, DFPS has not had the funding to meet the projected needs of this population and those needs have increased substantially with the COVID-19 pandemic. The state should invest more in these youth and ensure youth who age out of care are able to succeed and receive support when they face crises.
Children with Developmental Disabilities
The Child Protection Roundtable supports ensuring access to long-term services and supports to children with developmental disabilities and their families in lieu of relinquishment of custody. These vital long-term services and supports include Medicaid-funded Community First Choice, behavioral supports, personal care services and Medicaid waivers. For its part, DFPS should provide access to training for families on how best to support the mental health needs of their children with developmental or intellectual disabilities, ensure Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) programs assist families of children with developmental disabilities to access needed long-term services and supports, and comply with the Texas Promoting Independence Plan by seeking funding for Medicaid waivers for children currently living in DFPS-funded General Residential Operations so children with developmental disabilities can either return home, or move to a family-based alternative setting. Further details on these requests are set forth in EveryChild’s separate submittal of input to DFPS.
The Roundtable encourages DFPS to request full funding for continuing Community-Based Care (CBC) operations and contractual commitments in the present CBC catchment areas and to support the continued expansion of CBC during the upcoming FY2022-23 biennium. CBC has demonstrated early promise during Phase I service delivery and recently began to move into Phase II case management in the first of the four catchment areas under contract. As CBC moves forward into further phases and additional catchment areas, it will be important for DFPS to have the necessary resources to advance multi-contractor system characteristics such as data management and interoperability. It will also be important for DFPS to have the resources and supports to assure accountability and transparency to all system stakeholders, building further confidence that CBC is achieving its promise, as we all hope will prove to be the case. To the extent the present level of available resources is not sufficient to achieve these vital needs, the Child Protection Roundtable encourages DFPS to request those resources and will support those requests.
CPS workers perform selfless work for children and families in the child welfare system, even under normal circumstances. However, in the midst of COVID-19, CPS workers have had to make dramatic adjustments in how they work with families. When the rest of us have been told to stay home and stay safe, CPS workers have been asked to go out and keep other families and children safe. In addition to adjusting their practice, CPS workers are facing some of the most challenging cases of their career as COVID-19 has only amplified the stressors and challenges in many families who were already struggling. To effectively ensure child safety, the CPS workforce must be adequately supported, including the provision of appropriate supports to address their own mental health needs resulting from secondary trauma.
Texas has worked hard to improve salaries and reduce caseloads the past few years. It is vital that caseworkers have the ability to provide families and children in care with targeted case management. Cuts to CPS funding and salaries will result in more turnover and retention issues and will directly equate to declining outcomes for children and youth in care. The Child Protection Roundtable urges DFPS to continue investing in the CPS workforce by maintaining funding for their salaries and benefits and expanding secondary trauma services such as counseling complimented by debriefing with trained supervisors who can recognize the signs of secondary trauma and can refer for help when needed.
The Child Protection Roundtable supports DFPS’ continued leadership efforts to transform the Texas child welfare system into a trauma-informed and trauma-responsive system. DFPS was a leading partner in helping to develop the report Building a Trauma-Informed Child Welfare System: A Blueprint as part of the Statewide Collaborative on Trauma-Informed Care (SCTIC). There is broad support among Child Protection Roundtable membership and other stakeholders for ongoing efforts to improve training and use of trauma-informed practices throughout the child welfare system. There is also a clear understanding of the benefits of trauma-informed practices for children, families, and other system participants. The work of the SCTIC continues with the Implementation Taskforce, including the adoption of a DFPS rule to define trauma and trauma-informed care, and the creation of a website as a centralized location for information on trauma. The Child Protection Roundtable supports DFPS maintaining this priority in planning and budgeting for the next biennium.
Family First Prevention Services Act
The Child Protection Roundtable recommends that DFPS include adequate funding for successful implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) in its LAR Request. This funding should maximize opportunities to keep more children safely with their parents, prioritize placing more children in family-based foster care settings, and improve the quality of congregate care, especially in Residential Treatment Centers.
The DFPS LAR should include a placeholder for state funds needed to pull down a federal match to cover services that will prevent children from entering the Texas foster care system. DFPS should ask for state funds needed for more evidence-based substance use disorder, mental health, and in-home parenting skill building services. About 1.6 million Texans have lost health insurance during COVID-19 so far, meaning they might have lost access to mental health medications or other critical services that support children and their caregivers. During this difficult budget time, we encourage DFPS to maximize FFPSA dollars to help families at risk of having their child removed and placed in foster care. These investments will not only help families get through these difficult times, but they will also save money down the road in the budgets for CPS and other state services.
While crafting its LAR, DFPS should protect existing federal reimbursement for foster care placements by prioritizing strategies that would move children out of congregate care into family-based settings. When the FFPSA takes effect in Texas on October 1, 2021, Texas is at risk of losing federal reimbursement for its congregate care providers. The Child Protection Roundtable especially encourages three strategies:
Establish a kinship navigator program using FFPSA dollars to enhance support for kinship caregivers, who accounted for more than half of Texas’ placements during FY19;
Request funding to recruit more foster homes and anticipate increases in licensed foster homes resulting from the FFPSA requirement to align Texas’ minimum standards with the new model licensing standards, which may remove or reduce some barriers to licensure; and
Shift funding to Treatment Foster Family Care to serve more children with high needs in family-based settings. The Roundtable also encourages DFPS to ask the legislature to expand eligibility for Treatment Foster Family Care to older youth. Treatment Family Foster Care is only available to children under 10, and about 90 percent of children and youth in Residential Treatment Centers were 10 and older in FY19.
DFPS should also protect existing federal funding by elevating the quality of Residential Treatment Centers by requesting funds for enhanced provider rates and start-up grants to incentivize providers to meet the FFPSA’s Qualified Residential Treatment Program standards.
Federal Pandemic Emergency Assistance
We acknowledge the considerable recent and ongoing federal activity directed toward providing emergency aid and support to states in responding to the global pandemic, and we hope DFPS will take full advantage of these supplemental resources for their intended purposes as they are enacted and thereafter disbursed. Most if not all of the areas of concern addressed in this letter have been impacted by the pandemic, and our hope is that these supplemental resources will help Texas make continued progress across the child welfare system, building on the momentum of the past three sessions.
Thank you again for the opportunity to provide input on the DFPS LAR for the FY2022-2023 biennium and for the dedication of DFPS to the safety, health, and well-being of the children and families of Texas. We look forward to our continued partnership and a productive 87th Texas Legislature. For any questions or concerns, please contact Knox Kimberly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 567-6929.
DFPS Hearing on the Family First Prevention Services Act
On Jan. 30, TexProtects joined advocates from around the state at the Department of Family and Protective Services’ (DFPS) public hearing on the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). In the 86th legislative session, TexProtects championed S.B. 355 which directed DFPS to develop a strategic plan for the implementation of FFPSA. DFPS published their Texas Child Welfare Changing Landscape Action Plan several months ago, and this hearing offered the public an opportunity to provide feedback toward their planning process and the opportunities presented by FFPSA.
As a refresher, FFPSA changes the way federal dollars can be spent:
Title IV-E dollars previously could only be used for children once in substitute care, but now this funding is available for evidence-informed services for children and families to prevent removal. Specifically, these federal dollars intend to address the key drivers of child abuse and neglect: substance use, mental health, and lack of parenting skills. The idea behind this strategy is to provide the supports necessary to keep families safely together.
For families who require legal intervention from CPS, funding will be designated for family-like settings and congregate care placements that provide higher quality services.
The provisions of FFPSA also aim to better support kinship caregivers and provide older youth in care with more supports as they transition into adulthood.
TexProtects provided testimony alongside our advocacy partners from Texas CASA, Texans Care for Children, Disability Rights Texas, National Association of Social Workers, Parents as Teachers, Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), Nurturing Parenting, Center for Public Policy Priorities, and several community providers. In our testimony we emphasized the importance of getting the eligibility criteria right for these critical prevention services so that families have access to needed supports. We also discussed the importance of preserving funding for primary prevention efforts through Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) initiatives such as Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES) and NFP at DFPS and using the infrastructure already in place to expand services to higher risk families. Finally, we noted the importance of supporting kinship families and exploring the provisions of FFPSA that would allow further support of older youth in care.
We were glad to see such a great turnout at the hearing and the amount of meaningful, intentional recommendations provided for DFPS to consider. Texas’ deadline to implement the provisions of FFPSA by October 2021 is just around the corner, and we hope to see DFPS incorporate this feedback as they carry out their work.